To borrow a phrase from a scribe at Car and Driver, there are three sides of the law: wrong, right, and above. Guess which one(s) might apply here:
Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.
According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.
In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.
Said the judge in question:
“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge [Howard] Shore on Tuesday.
Nor does it mention weapons-grade stupidity, evidently:
According to Olson, who spoke with local broadcaster KGTV, one Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.
Six thousand clams to clean up children’s chalk? How are these imbeciles managing to stay in business? As if we didn’t know.